Bleh with Barry

Random with a cynical twist of lime.

Musical Theater 101

with 2 comments

Eventually in the grand scheme of small town theater whether it be on a high school level, community, or even small town college theater, the idea of doing a musical comes into someone’s mind. While musicals are fun and can create a decent revenue for a group that is willing to put the time and effort into singing and acting their hearts out, they should be selected by some stringent guidelines.

1) Number of people in the musical. If you have a small theater group, don’t pick something that requires 40 people to be able to sing, dance, and act because chances are that some of those people will not be able to do all three. If you’ve ever been involved with a small production, you will know exactly what I’m saying. Most of the time people who can do one or two of the three can’t do the coveted other. It’s just the fact of the matter. How do I know? Because I myself fall into this category of actor. I feel that I can sing and act to a degree; however, if you ask me to dance, I will have to be shown how to do the simplest of steps repeatedly. This is not saying that I can’t dance. I just have to have some special attention when it comes to it.

2) Quality of the people you have. If you are thinking about doing a musical like Sweeney Todd where you must have at least 8+ main people who have to be able to sing and have an ensemble that can carry a tune, please for the love of all that is good and holy don’t pick the musical. Most musicals that are performed on Broadway are there for a reason. They require high-caliber actors and actresses to make them come to life because the vocal ability that is contained within the musical is that great. There are some shows that cannot be done by simple hometown theater leagues because they will fall apart and havoc will ensue…I know I’ve been involved with productions like this (sad to say).

3) Cost. Musical royalties are really, really expensive, even for the oldest and most simplistic of musicals. Why? Because you have to rent the music and buy the scripts…then, there’s the whole returning the music and the possibility of them being “damaged”, etc. This along with the price you have to pay to perform the show are sometimes too great for smaller companies. Also, it is not smart of any level to try to perform without paying the royalties because you can be sued for such things. It’s just not good all the way around.

4) Orchestra. You can’t do a big musical without one. If you do, your musical will be mediocre at best…that’s all I’m saying about that one.

A few suggestions of musicals that I would make for people who are lacking in any of these areas are those that require smaller casts and a fewer number of brilliant singers. The Man of la Mancha, which is the story of Cervantes, is a really good one for those who have a few talented people. You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, The Fantasticks, and The Last Five Years are also possibilities. YGMCB and The Fantasticks require a few decent singers to have a good, fun show. The Last Five Years requires a good tenor and a good soprano to make the show fly. All of these shows are good for smaller companies, and if you have questions about any of them, I would suggest youtubing songs from them. All of them are brilliant in their own right and would do well in a smaller forum.

Man of La Mancha

The Last Five Years

You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown

The Fantasticks

Written by uncannynerdyguy

April 23, 2010 at 12:14 am

2 Responses

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  1. Let’s not forget age-appropriate shows!! You don’t want to watch a bunch of children perform RENT, for example. Likewise, it’s hard for high schoolers to understand and aptly portray emotions that they have yet to experience…a good reason not to do Tennessee Williams at that age (although you were talking about musicals).

    Last year, I saw a high school production of Aida that had some amazing things going for it, but I felt absolutely no spark between Aida and Radames. It was frustrating to see them sing a passionate song to each other as they’re being sentenced to their death and to have them just staring at each other, not touching, not emoting. I get it- they’ve never faced death, they’ve probably never loved anyone, but COME ON.


    April 24, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    • You make a valid point…age appropriate is good too. And yes, I’ve had similar experiences watching people perform musicals.


      April 24, 2010 at 12:39 pm

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